Durban - Why were charges of corruption and racketeering against MECs Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni withdrawn in the so-called “Amigos” case?
This is the question the DA has put to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to force the KZN director of public prosecutions, Sophy Moipone Noko, to disclose what led to the charges being dropped.
Argument was heard on Friday and Judge Rashid Vahed reserved judgment.
In August 2012, charges were withdrawn against the politicians and seven others relating to a R144 million contract that allegedly involved fraud and corruption in the provincial departments of Health and Local Government.
They were charged along with Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi. The accused were linked to the sale of water purification plants to the health department, allegedly at inflated prices.
Savoi’s company, Intaka, allegedly paid bribes to secure a contract to supply water purifiers and oxygen generators to hospitals, at inflated prices.
At the time, Nkonyeni, now the MEC for Education, was the MEC for Health, while Mabuyakhulu was the Local Government MEC and ANC treasurer. He is now the MEC for Economic Development and Tourism.
For the DA, advocate Adrian Rall, SC, submitted on Friday that the application was being brought in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
He said the charges against the MECs were serious. If there was no legal justification for withdrawing the charges, this would reveal evidence of a substantial contravention or failure to comply with the law.
“By virtue of their senior positions, the disclosure of the record is in the public interest.”
Advocate Alastair Dickson, SC, who acted for the MECs, said he supported the argument that the record was “legally privileged”.
“The application is an extension of political wrangling and mud-slinging and is brought for an ulterior motive.”
He said it was about one political party coming to court to find out something about the opposition.
Dickson said the DA did not say if it saw anomalies in the case or if it had reason to believe the decision was incorrect.
“It isn’t just a fishing expedition, it is an ulterior motive… to provide fodder for the front pages of newspapers.”
Noko’s advocate, Dumisa Ntsebeza, SC, said the information sought was privileged. There was no prospect of a successful prosecution of the MECs.
He said the DA had not exhausted all internal remedies before bringing the case. Disclosure could jeopardise prosecution of the remaining accused.
It could also undermine an opportunity to reinstate charges or formulate other charges against the politicians.